EXCLUSIVE: Production and finance operation Extraordinary Studios has embarked on plans for a state-of-the-art studio facility it says will be the UK’s fourth largest after Pinewood, Shepperton and Elstree, and will sit on the nation’s biggest backlot. The project is being set up near Christchurch in Bournemouth on the south coast of England in Dorset. With a budget of £50M, it will be private equity financed. Chris Samwells, a co-founder of Extraordinary, tells me the facility has the full support of the local government and a major developer on board. Silicon South, an org that develops digital media in the region, is also in favor.
The initial planning is being submitted for three stages of a combined 4,820 square meters (52K square feet) with space to grow; 23K square feet of offices; a hotel; post-production facilities and a 74-acre backlot. There would further be apartments to house crew. Samwells says the target is to break ground in spring 2017 and be up and running two years later. Extraordinary is acquiring the land, which has already been zoned for employment, with the local council. Patrick Dodd (Se7en, Mindhunters) is due to run the sound department. The architect on the project is Ricardo Fina Calatrava.
Founded in 2007, Extraordinary, which bills itself as a finance and production company with expertise in studio design and motion control, has made two attempts to build a studio previously but “kept coming up against brick walls,” says Samwells. A first try in Girona, Spain was thwarted by the Euro crisis, he says; and a subsequent endeavor in Perth, Australia was hindered by costs of building a planned hotel. “We are coming full circle” to build the studio in the UK, says Samwells.
If the project gets a full greenlight, the timing could be fortuitous given the stage crunch in the UK following the introduction of the High-End TV Tax Credit and as Hollywood productions take up more and more space, largely at leading facilities Pinewood and Shepperton. What’s more, Samwells contends, “Brexit is working in our favor because people feel a lot safer investing money within the UK than within an uncertain Europe.”
The south coast is host to the Bournemouth Film School with which Samwells says Extraordinary would work closely. “There is a huge amount of talent locally. The local government wants to keep highly qualified students working and creating companies locally.”
Samwells says he and his partners, who include filmmakers Michael O’Connor, Steven Melendez and Ulf Zeigler, are “doing this to create a bright new future (for) young talent that is being given no chance, in a wonderful environment.” The ambition is to have the first three stages up and running and then, “expand with our own success.”